The European Union, the supranational governmental body that seeks an ever-increasing political and economic unity of the European continent, has for years been struggling with dwindling popularity among its member-state citizens.
The main objections of its member-state citizens seem to be focused on the lack of actual democracy and transparency inside the European Union. And it is not exactly as if key EU figures are going out of their way to prove them wrong.
Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission (the EU's highest position), is on record saying brazenly the following about European democracy and transparency:
- "When it becomes serious, you have to lie." -- Referring to the Greek economic meltdown of 2011.
- "Of course there will be transfers of sovereignty. But would I be intelligent to draw the attention of public opinion to this fact?" -- Referring to calls for a British referendum on the Lisbon Treaty.
- "We decide on something, leave it lying around, and wait and see what happens. If no one kicks up a fuss, because most people do not understand what has been decided, we continue step by step until there is no turning back." -- Referring to the introduction of the euro.
The list goes on, and very aptly inspires the resentment that an increasing number of EU member-state citizens feel towards the EU.
Now, for the first time in EU history, a national population is close to succeeding in forcing its government to answer to the will of the people directly. The largest Dutch political and entertainment blog, GeenStijl.nl, has launched a campaign to mount a referendum on the new treaty between the EU and Ukraine. The treaty would endorse the creation of a visa-free travel arrangement between Ukraine and the EU, and Dutch taxpayers would have to donate financial aid to Ukraine without knowing how Ukraine would spend it. The Netherlands would have to contribute to "powerful support for the European course of the country," which would mean increased involvement in the Ukrainian civil war.
By law, the campaign has to be conducted within six weeks, in which 300,000 signatures need to be collected in order to approve a referendum. Within the first three weeks, GeenStijl gathered 150,000 signatures, half the number required, and chances are it will succeed in crossing the 300,000 mark before the deadline, September 28.
Why do so many Dutch citizens seem to oppose the EU-Ukraine treaty enough to want to undo it through a referendum? Above all, they seem affronted that they were never consulted by their elected officials, who never even mentioned the treaty during the 2012 Dutch national elections. The treaty was ratified by the Dutch government this summer, after almost no debate about the issue. It all happened in line with how Jean-Claude Juncker prefers making policy: "If no one kicks up a fuss, because most people do not understand what has been decided, we continue step by step until there is no turning back."
Other objections seem to be that Dutch citizens do not see why they should associate themselves with a country that is highly corrupt. It is likely that the financial aid Dutch taxpayers -- as a party to this treaty -- will have to send to Ukraine will not be used the way it is meant to be.
Ukraine also has a strong far-right political undercurrent that is not compatible with Dutch political culture; Ukraine is in a state of civil war, and also in a state of war (by proxy) with the continent's strongest military power, Russia.
In addition, the treaty would imply the creation of a visa-free travel arrangement between Ukraine and EU member states. Since Ukraine is a major hub for human trafficking, one of the "largest suppliers of slave labor in Europe" and one Europe's most important transit countries for international drug trafficking, it may be understandable why the Dutch would oppose an unrestricted travel arrangement between Ukraine and the EU.
The Netherlands is a small country, but the consequences, if and when this referendum succeeds, could be very significant. First, a referendum in the Netherlands would create the precedent of even having EU referenda by "mere" citizens. The process could easily be replicated for future referenda. Second, it could inspire other national populations of EU member-states to undertake similar ventures. If that ball starts rolling, European populations could take back the sovereignty that the EU gradually took from them. It could also send a serious message to the unelected, non-transparent and unaccountable EU as a whole.
Right now, the EU is a remote governmental body where unelected Euro-federalist technocrats decide on significant national matters. It is a government without a country to govern. The Soviet dissident, Vladimir Bukovsky, has called it the EUSSR.
If the Dutch people succeed, they may very well be initiating a new chapter of government by the people and for the people that could finally make the continent flourish.
People can sign up here online to demand the referendum (Dutch citizens ONLY please).
Dutch citizens abroad can fill out this form here, print it, and send it to the address: GeenPeil, Postbus 37743, 1030 BG, Amsterdam, Netherlands.
Non-Dutch members of the EU can show their support by spreading the word about the Dutch EU-referendum in their own national media, and by examining the possibilities for EU-referenda in their own countries.
Readers who would like to support the campaign in any other way they see fit, can contact the campaign team at firstname.lastname@example.org